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Apam demands Peter Mutharika presence

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By Faith Kamtambe:

There was an attempt to stop the march to Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe, but Association of Persons with Albinism in Malawi (Apam) members and human rights activists stood their ground Wednesday.

They were convinced that they had, for years, done enough talking with President Peter Mutharika and only a march to his residence, and spending some days there, would bring solutions to the problem of the killing and abduction of people with albinism (pwas).

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But, on their way to the palace, Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) Chairperson, Timothy Mtambo, questioned police officers for blocking the group.

Despite Mutharika travelling to the Northern Region on official duties, the march proceeded. When they got close to the palace, the protesters spoke out.

“We are giving Mutharika 48 hours to come back. We want him to address the concerns. But, for security reasons, we are going to seek accommodation somewhere until he returns,” Mtambo said.

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But presidential adviser on non-governmental organisations, Mabvuto Bamusi, advised the protesters to put their demands in writing. In response, Apam President, Overstone Kondowe, said they would do that.

Amid rains, Apam and representatives of other human rights organisations marched to the palace.

At Lilongwe Community Centre Ground, the starting point of the march, it was police officers who thronged the place in the morning, before organisers and other concerned people showed up for the journey which ended at around 5pm.

Police officers stopped the protesters about 300 metres from the gates of the palace.

Less than 50 pwas were present at the beginning of the march, although Kondowe said about 300 people were expected to join the march.

As the marchers passed through Mchesi Township going towards Kamuzu Central Hospital roundabout, more people joined. As they reached traffic lights at Bingu International Convention Centre (BICC), there were over 200 demonstrators, who carried placards bearing different messages.

“Different skin colour, equal human rights”, “Nawonso ndi anthu (They are also people)”, “Wakeup! dinning is not an option”. “apolisi dzukani” (police officers wake up). “Same blood, different colours”, “sellouts keep dreaming”.

And, as they were passing by Parliament, possibly knowing that the House was in session, a placard carrying the message “Aphungu athu dzukani” [wake up our members of Parliament” was raised.

Police officers tried to block the marches at BICC but they proceed with their journey and stopped 100 metres from the palace gates.

The police officers told them that Chief Secretary to the Government, Lloyd Muhara, would come to receive their petition.

Instead it was Deputy Inspector General of Police (Administration), John Nyondo, who showed up and tried to reason with the protesters but the people proceeded with their journey.

A second attempt to stop them was made at a barrier before Lilongwe Bridge but the people pushed their way through. However, they did not succeed to pass the bridge.

They stopped there as Apam officials, Chairperson of the Presidential Taskforce on Persons with Albinism, Hetherwick Ntaba, were involved in talks.

Pwas are particularly not happy with the government’s failure to release funds for activities in the National Action Plan on Persons with Albinism which was launched in June 2018.

Since 2014, 24 pwas have been killed or abducted in the country. In recent months, there has been a resurgence in such attacks, prompting Apam to stage the march..

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